11/10/10 — Drug and gang prevention conference set for next week

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Drug and gang prevention conference set for next week

By Gary Popp
Published in News on November 10, 2010 1:46 PM

Nearly 40 local churches and civic groups are collaborating to sponsor the fourth annual Drug Dealer/Gang Member Redemption Conference on Nov. 17-19.

The three-day event is designed to reach young people who are involved in gangs and those who may be considering joining one.

Francine Smith is the program manager of Rebuilding Broken Places, one of the primary groups organizing the event.

"The goal is to change to the mindset of the young people we talk to," she said at a press conference Tuesday.

Many of the presentations at the conference will be given by individuals who have overcome the same obstacles that face the young people they are trying to sway.

"We bring in ex-drug dealers and former gang members -- people who have been in that lifestyle, but who have changed their lives around," Smith said. "They bring the message that change is possible."

By providing examples of people who have worked for their own betterment, organizers are hoping that the participants will learn that they, too, can help themselves.

Smith said the event also focuses on the attendees who have already been in jail.

"We get people assigned to come through the court system and through the Day Reporting Center," Smith said. "We want them to know that because they have made wrong choices doesn't mean that their lives are over," Smith said.

Other participants will include youths from local schools and community programs.

Some of the highlights of the event will include a speech by Paula Everett, the mother of Stacy Edwards, a Goldsboro teenager who was shot to death earlier this year.

Jakayla Hart, 15, a former gang member who speaks across the state to youths, will also take the stage.

The Rev. Dr. William Barber, state president of the NAACP, will deliver a message of hope to those in attendance.

A resource fair will be also be held in which participants can receive information on educational and employment opportunities that are available locally.

Various artists and groups will provide entertainment during the event, which will be held at the Goldsboro-Raleigh Assembly at 214 Hooks River Road, from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m.